Recently as I went by a building that used to be a hospital in Astoria I remembered being there 40 years ago this month. My mom had fallen and thought she ought to go to the emergency room to get checked out. We found out she had a broken hip.
My dad was battling cancer at the time; a battle that took his life a few months later. A few days after my mom broke her hip I came down with chicken pox. During that time even our cat got sick. It wasn’t the best December ever for our family.
I’ve also been remembering December 20 years ago. The first Christmas since my brother, sister and mother had died was coming, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. One of my favorite musicians, Michael Card, was doing a concert in Portland and I went. He sang the song, Immanuel. “Immanuel, our God is with us. And if God is with us, who can stand against us? Our God is with us, Immanuel.”
Those were just the words I needed to hear. I needed to be reminded of the promise: “… they will call him Immanuel – which means ‘God with us'” (Matthew 1:23). I felt pretty alone when I went to that concert. It was so good to hear the wonderful good news that I wasn’t alone. God is with us, even when others aren’t any longer. He is with us during the tough times. He is with us to give strength and encouragement when the trials of life are too much for us to handle. He has moved into our neighborhood and “made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
Maybe for you this Christmas isn’t feeling all that merry. Maybe your life right now doesn’t exactly resemble a cheerful Hallmark Christmas card. Just because your days don’t feel “merry and bright” it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It’s a reminder you’re like the rest of us: a human being who needs a Savior. The Savior has come. He didn’t come to reward those who have it all together. He came to save those who humble themselves and admit their sin and need. He came to help those who are honest about their struggles and weaknesses. He came to walk through the hard times with us. He came to be Immanuel – God with us.